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Tom Dolby’s second feature film, THE ARTIST’S WIFE, gives us Claire and Richard Smythson. He’s an artist recognized for his genius and his, ahem, difficult temperament. She’s the loyal helpmeet who gave up her own career as a painter in order to allow her husband to focus on nothing but his art. Its an arrangement that has suited them both for decades until Richard begins to show signs of dementia, and the race for him to finish the works for his final show, as well as re-establishing contact with his estranged daughter, Angela, and unmet grandson, Gogo, begins to take its toll on both of them. It also re-awakens Claire’s own creative impulse.
Dolby’s own father suffered from Alzheimer’s, so it was only natural that I would ask him how it may have shaped his approach to co-writing the script when we talked by phone on September 18, 2020. That comes later in m interview. Before that, we talked about why he was determined to set the film during a New York winter (and the lessons it taught him).
We went on to talk about Leni Olin’s remarkable talent for speaking without words; externalizing the creative process; the role of cinematography (by Ryan Parker) in a film about art and artists; and why Grape Nuts® loom large in a key scenes, one of several that tantalize us with questions about the nature of perception, intelligence, and family bonds.
The film stars Lena Olin, Bruce Dern, Juliet Rylance, Avan Jogia, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Tonya Pinkins, and Stephanie Powers. Dolby directed from a script he co-wrote with Nicole Brending and Abdi Nazemian. His debut feature film was LAST WEEKEND.